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Forming a question

Thread originally posted on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum on 18 Nov 2001, and now archived in the Forum Library.

tiger lily  18 Nov 2001 
Assessing the situation

The first step in forming the right question is to narrow down the problem. Usually weīre not very good at analyzing things solely in our heads - we tend to run in circles or are carried away by associations and emotions.

So when reading for yourself, the first step is to get pen and paper and write everything down. Writing forces you to finish your sentences (your thoughts) and to think only about one thing at a time. It structures and clears your thoughts and forces you out of your mental rut, thereby opening up new insights.

It is important to write without planning or editing. I call it stream-of-consciousness-writing. To get the most out of your initial brainstorming, follow the rules of Natalie Goldberg (in Writing Down the Bones):

1. Keep your hand moving (donīt pause to reread your writing).
2. Donīt cross out (Thatīs editing).
3. Donīt worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar.
4. Lose control (Donīt edit your feelings).
5. Donīt think. Donīt get logical.

As you write, youīll "burn through" (to use another term of Goldberg) to the core problem. Donīt be surprised if it is something completely unrelated to what you thought were bugging you - you just avoided big confusion later, when the cards would have adressed exactly that problem while youīd have still lingered on the surface.

When you read for someone else, it is more difficult, because the client has to tell you about the situation and people are usually a) not as open to another person as they would be in their journals, and b) more unstructured and repetitive, so you need a trained ear and lots of concentration to see under the surface.

Phrasing the question

At the end of either process, you should be able to name the problem in one sentence. You should then determine what you need to get from the cards. Write the problem and the question (one sentence each) on a slip of paper. You will use this question sheet as your significator. Some guidelines to consider are:

The more exact the question, the more specific the answer.

Try to keep a middle ground between being too general and too specific.

Donīt pre-determine available options; let the cards come up with creative solutions and phrase your question open-ended.

Stay positive: orientate the question on a solution rather than on the problem. 

Butterfly  18 Nov 2001 
Thanks, Tigerlily your posts today have been so insightful and wise. not to mention a good kick in the pants! That's all the kind of stuff you just won't find in a book.
Blessed be

tiger lily  18 Nov 2001 
Thanks (we need a blushing smiley, too...) - this is *my* reading ritual; Iīm not much into rituals otherwise... 

Talisman  19 Nov 2001 

Natalie Goldberg's a ton of fun. You are too. I've been really enjoying your posts.

Was sitting at a sidewalk table outside a neighborhood coffee shop, mocha latte at hand, writing furiously in a notebook, when a woman passing by stopped by my table and winked at me. "Doin' a Goldberg?" she asked.

Although no one will ever see me, maybe sometime when I'm sitting and pondering, holding a Tarot deck, an imaginary passerby could ask, "Doin' a tigerlily?"


tiger lily  19 Nov 2001 
Thank you Talisman, youīre too kind :-) Hey, Iīd like to become proverbial, weīd have the Heimlich, the Rittberger adn the Tigerlily :-D :-D :-D 

purplelady  27 Nov 2001 
sort-of like babbling on paper, gosh , I think I do enough of that already!
I form a question in one sentence, then I babble on for pages when reading the cards with my answer! 

tarotbear  28 Nov 2001 
I tell my students that if they can answer the question yes/no then they are wasting their time using tarot--flip a coin instead.

Rather than ask a yes/no question (Will I get this job?) you will do better to ask (What do I need to know about getting this job? or What qualities will help me to obtain this job?) a question that deals with the job. 

Marion  01 Dec 2001 
And another thing tigerlily, type rather than write. Writing makes my hand tired.
Good ideas! 

DesertHowler  19 Sep 2003 
This isn't directly related to Tarot but I think the idea is important---

When I first started as an engineer, it was in a mine that hauled the ore with large diesel locomotives. During the summer we would shut down the mine for 3 weeks or so. This was to do some work that had to be done while there was no operations going on.

During one shutdown, an addition was built on the Chemistry/Assay lab. The chief chemist asked the mine superintendent to come and look at the new structure. When the superintendent arrived the chief chemist asked, "Will this addition interfere with the haulage trains?" "No it won't interfere at all," the superintendent said.

When operations resumed after the shut down, the first locomotive through knocked off the corner of the new addition. The chief chemist telephoned the superintendent and shouted, "You said the addition wouldn't interfere with the trains." "It didn't slow the train a bit," the superintendent replied into the phone as he winked at me.

I learned, that day, to ask what you mean, not what you think you mean. There is often a big difference between the two.


Theia  09 Nov 2003 
There is a lot of good advice in this thread; I always have problems when it comes to coming up with my own question. So times I get so frustrated that I just start lay out the cards to see what pops up. I am just usually trying to practice anyway but would have a better understanding I think it I had a question addressed. So the writing down method sounds great reminds me of writing exercise from collage. Also think making sure not to ask yes/no is another good one. I mean the cards really can’t tell you yes or no but more of what is going on. I think that that would bring a whole new dimension to my readings, thanks for all the great advice! 

The Forming a question thread was originally posted on 18 Nov 2001 in the Using Tarot Cards board, and is now archived in the Forum Library. Read the threads in Using Tarot Cards, or read more archived threads.

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